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5K race organizers hope to set good example for Alle-Kiski Valley

| Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013, 12:21 a.m.

Organizers want the Heritage Hospice 5K on Saturday to be an example of how businesses, school districts and the public can join together to benefit the community.

“When we started, we wanted to have a company that was involved in the community,” said Mike Vasil, chief financial officer of the 3-year-old New Kensington hospice he owns with his twin brother, Dr. Matt Vasil.

The hospice started organizing a summer softball tournament that supports local ambulance companies, but they wanted to do more.

Tami Kelly, the hospice's director of support services and a member of the Burrell School Board, suggested a 5K run-walk event that would raise money for schools.

“That was about the same time the school funding got cut, which is at the top of my mind from school board,” Kelly said. “It was just sort of the perfect storm of events.”

With Heritage drawing employees and patients from both the Burrell and New Ken-Arnold communities, they opted to split the proceeds between the school districts.

To add a level of competition to the event, participants can vote for the school district they want to receive the bulk of donations. The proceeds will be split 70-30 in favor of the district with the most votes.

With over 60 runners and a few hundred total participants during last fall's inaugural race, the event raised about $3,000.

“Burrell won last year, so Valley this year is working hard to beat that,” Kelly said.

Burrell High School Principal John Boylan said last year's money was put toward upgrades of the high school auditorium's sound system since the facility benefits a lot of students and organizations.

This year, Boylan said money will be used for student recognition, particularly the year-end scholars ceremony.

Jon Banko, Valley High School's principal, said New Ken-Arnold's share will be used for a similar purpose.

Kelly said event organizers leave it up to the districts to distribute the funds — as long as the money benefits students in an area other than athletics.

Student recognition “is something that unfortunately gets put lower on the priority list when funds are low,” she said.

Participants can buy votes for 25 cents each at the event.

Kelly said Northmoreland Park in Allegheny Township was the site of last year's event.

“It was very nice — it's beautiful to walk around the lake,” Kelly said. “But we wanted to bring it closer to the area.”

The 18th Street ball fields in Arnold will be the starting point of this year's race plus the site of the family walk, children's activities, music, a basket auction and concessions.

The 5K (3.1-mile) course will loop through the flats of Arnold and New Kensington and end at the park.

“It's a nice course to run. It's nice and flat,” Banko said. “(Turnout) was really nice last year and it wasn't in either district. I'm hoping this year because it's in town, we'll have a lot of people who will come.”

In addition to running the race, a lot of students from both districts help at the event, Boylan said.

“It's a fun day,” Boylan said. “The intention is for that to grow each year.”

Mike Vasil said they hope to make the 5K race an annual event and possibly move it to different locations within the districts' communities each year.

“We definitely want to raise money for the districts,” Kelly said.

“But we also want to have something for the community to enjoy. It's really neat to see the school districts work together.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or lhayes@tribweb.com.

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